On my recent trip to Amsterdam, my schedule was as wide open as the overstuffed carry-on I had no hope of zipping. However, there were a few things I wanted to see: the Van Gogh Museum ✓, a bicycle collision ✓, someone so high they were absolutely losing their minds ✓✓✓; some things I wish I hadn’t seen: bored prostitutes scrolling through Facebook; and some things I absolutely could not leave without seeing: the Anne Frank House, a hot, fresh stroopwafel in my mouth, and TULIPS.
Tulips have been cultivated since the 10th century and are native to areas ranging from the Iberian Peninsula to the Middle East, North Africa, Greece, and all the way to China. Today, they’re found almost everywhere—notably Northwestern Europe and your local grocer, but nowhere more prevalent than the guts of the deer that sneak into my yard at night.
Tulips have come to be seen as the quintessential cultural symbol of both the Netherlands and of my on-going battle with urban wildlife. In Turkish culture, tulips represent paradise on Earth; in the Netherlands they represent the briefness of life (like how sometimes you don’t even get to bloom before you’re ripped violently from the earth by an animal’s teeth); and at the Smith household, tulips serve as a reminder of my continued failures. Like that time I, a devoted lover of tulips, wanted them for my wedding but was told I couldn’t have tulips in August. Okay, if Kroger can get tulips in August, Ashley can get tulips in August. I think the fact that my husband wore a pink tie for our nuptials proves that anything is possible.
So upon traveling to the mothership of bulbous perennials, it was imperative that I found myself surrounded by tulips in such multitudes that no one could take them away from me. However, given my limited time in Amsterdam I didn’t want to stray too far from the land of cannabis and canals. What I needed was a quick and easy side trip—like visiting Versailles from Paris or working in that it’s your birthday when a stranger asks what kind of dog you’re walking.
The solution: a day trip to Keukenhof
KEUKENHOF | IT’S TULIP TIME IN THE NETHERLANDS!
Keukenhof is Dutch for “Kitchen Garden” because sure, why not? My kitchen garden consists of a window sill harboring one lone radish growing in a pot and a couple of avocado pits suspended over mason jars. Blatantly showing off, Keukenhof is the largest flower garden in the world with seven million flowers, 800 varieties of tulips, and one really tiny goat I wish I had room for in my carry-on. There are nine miles of walking paths through beautiful wooded areas, wild floral arrangements, event pavilions, and even a windmill you can climb–the only time I got high in Amsterdam.
Remember when Dorothy was imagining a place over the rainbow? Where happy little bluebirds fly and your dog won’t get unfairly euthanized? She believed it was “not a place you can get to by a boat or a train” and she was right. Only a category F2 tornado, a rogue hot air balloon, or a quick bus ride from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport can get you there.
Keukenhof is a land only the Technicolor wizards of the 1930s could’ve dreamed up and, stepping off your bus, you’ll swear you’ve crossed over into Munchkin Land. Only this is the Netherlands so you’re the only Munchkin in this scenario. Flowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors, people dressed in funny little outfits with shoes made of wood and speaking a language you can’t understand, and a jaunty little tune playing off in the distance. I like to think that little ditty was for me…
“Come out, come out, wherever you are – and meet the young lady who’s finally left the bar.”
“And Heineken, she says, has a label with a star.”
So yes, Dorothy was right. It really is “behind the moon… beyond the rain”…and just 20 minutes past the airport on the A4 in a town called Lisse.
Keukenhof is open from late March until late May – ironically, that’s pretty damn close to the timespan of tornado season in Kansas.
DAY TRIP TO KEUKENHOF FROM AMSTERDAM
So let me get this straight… Dorothy yearns above all else to visit a beautiful, carefree place somewhere over the rainbow, actually gets there, then immediately says, “I’d give anything to get out of [here] altogether.” Girl, I thought we had a connection!
Unlike Dorothy, I could have spent a lot more time at Keukenhof, that magical place where rainbows grow straight outta the ground like the Scarecrow’s innards. Because I had to catch a train to Belgium that day, I spent just three hours within the park—roughly the time it took Dorothy to round up her company of dopey, wimpy, heartless companions. Additionally, I dedicated an hour to getting there—an hour that included taking a cab from my hotel in the Jordaan to Schiphol airport, storing my bags, and riding the bus to Keukenhof. However, I’d recommend you spend at least four hours in the park though I could’ve easily spent five. Six if you wanna take a nap in some poppies.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and the busses to Keukenhof from Schiphol (and vice-versa) run more often than does the Cowardly Lion from his own tail. Fitting in a half-day or day trip to Keukenhof is affordable, highly recommended, and simple enough even straw-for-brains could figure this one out.
STEP 01 | GET TO SCHIPHOL AIRPORT.
This should be fairly easy as it seems all roads lead to Schiphol. Do I even need to make a Yellow Brick Road/Emerald City reference here? Imma skip it. There are other ways to get to Keukenhof but, if you are staying anywhere near Central Amsterdam, this is by far the easiest, fastest, and most direct route. Once there, look for the ENORMOUS tulip (shown above). In fact, we told our cab driver we were headed to Keukenhof and he dropped us off right at the tulip. Seriously, this. could. not. be. easier.
STEP 02 | DO YOU NEED TO STORE ANY BAGS?
For the purpose of understanding this post, if you’re not aware, Amsterdam’s Schiphol is both an airport and a train station.
Since I’d already checked out of my hotel and was heading to Belgium after Keukenhof, I needed to store my bags at Schiphol. And, since I had hopes of actually retrieving them later, I was apprehensive af about storing all the luggage I brought to Europe in a locker in the TRAIN STATION. I suffer from crippling post-traumatic train station stress disorder, or PTTSSD for short, and thought the idea of this to be utterly ridiculous to begin with. However, I’d never before been to Amsterdam, the Merry Old Land of Awes…ome public transportation—the most organized, cleanest, loveliest, trustworthiest, snuggliest of all train stations/airports. This is no Termini or Gare du Nord. This is a concourse of a different color. Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho, and a couple of tra-la-las!
To store your ruby slippers at Schiphol away from the clutches of the Wicked Witch, follow these directions:
From the big inflatable tulip, enter the airport and walk straight to the opposite end. Take a right at H&M and from there follow the yellow signs (of course they’re yellow) leading downstairs to the luggage storage area. Or, do as I did and ask someone where the luggage storage is–he or she will walk you there personally (but ask if you can skip instead because… theme). Seriously, this. could. not. be. easier. Actually, it could. I made you a map:
Official page for Schiphol luggage storage with prices and hours here.
Note: For a 2€ fully refundable deposit, there are also lockers outside the entrance to Keukenhof that are big enough to hold a large purse, a coat, and maybe a young Cairn Terrier prone to causing trouble. However, not big enough for a suitcase.
STEP 03 | PURCHASE BUS + ENTRANCE TICKETS.
Back out at the giant tulip you’ll see a truck with pictures of tulips all over it. If this truck were parked at my house overnight it’d be covered in tiny bite marks and surrounded by piles of poo that look like mounds of spilled Raisinettes. At this truck you can buy an all-in-one round-trip bus ticket and, if you think you can be trusted with keeping track of a tiny piece of cardboard for the 20-minute ride, your Keukenhof entrance ticket.
However, do note that Keukenhof is included in the Holland Pass–you know I love city discount passes–so that may change this process just a bit.
STEP 04 | GET ON THE BUS.
Mere feet away from the food truck for fawns is the bus to Keukenhof. It, too, is covered in and surrounded by tulips. There are Keukenhof signs, a designated pathway, and, for whatever reason, a team of people leading you the five feet to the front of the bus. The only way you could screw this up is if your eyes were in your butt and you’d just completed a dizzy bat race. But even then there’d be a team of tulip troopers to carry you aboard.
A day trip to Keukenhof could. not. be. easier.
KEUKENHOF | SO MUCH DUTCH
To take a day trip to Keukenhof is to fill that basket you’ve been carrying around with concentrated Dutch culture. Plus that oil can. There’s a windmill and guys in wooden shoes. There are traditional Dutch dancers wearing traditional Dutch clothing next to some guys riding traditional Dutch bicycles. There are even traditional Dutch hot girls to greet you upon arrival. I ate traditional Dutch herring while sitting on a traditional Dutch bench next to a traditional Dutch lake. Or whatever.
In short, a day trip to Keukenhof is the best possible way to absorb Dutch culture when you’re strapped for time in the Netherlands and more or less bound to Amsterdam.
KEUKENHOF FLOWER GARDENS | BEAUTY IS ONLY STEM-DEEP
We’ve finally made it to the rainbow portion of this journey. We’re stepping out of our black and white muggle existence and into a land of innovative technicolor and CGI and hopefully Photoshop too ’cause there are some pictures of me in here. We’ve just legit killed a woman with our house but that’s beside the point because everything here smells like beauty and happiness and I’m famous now! They’re singing songs in our names and the Mayor himself is welcoming us most regally. There are some creepy guys over in the corner waiting to give us lollipops so maybe we should get moving. Pick up your map at the entrance and get lost.
Pro Tip: The tulips in the fields outside Keukenhof (shown above) are grown for their bulbs (which are shipped off around the world), not their flowers. Because of this the flowers are plucked from the plants which strengthens the bulbs for next year (producing the really good tulips for my deer to eat). This is typically done on or pretty close after April 30th, so visit before then to see the fields in full color. (I visited pretty early, March 31st, so they weren’t fully in bloom yet.)
There’s no place like Holland.
There’s no place like Holland.
There’s no place like Holland.
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